Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio knows he’s in for a challenge this weekend with Trace McSorley on the opposing sideline — and he didn’t try to pretend otherwise Tuesday afternoon.
In Dantonio’s two meetings against the Penn State quarterback, he’s gone 1-1 while watching McSorley throw for a combined 757 yards and seven touchdowns.
“They are a challenge offensively, and (McSorley) creates that dynamic, that multiple run/pass-guy type quarterback, and he’s got a toughness aspect to him, too,” Dantonio said. “He’s a great player, great leader, and a lot of their success hinges on what he does, so we need to negate his abilities as best we can.”
Although McSorley is no longer at the forefront of the Heisman discussion — ESPN’s expert panel didn’t give him a single top-5 vote — there’s no arguing his talent. The redshirt senior accounted for 94 percent of the Nittany Lions’ offense in his last game, against No. 3 Ohio State, in which he passed for 286 yards and rushed for 175.
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Against Michigan State last season, McSorley threw an uncharacteristic three interceptions — but the number is misleading, as two were no fault of McSorley’s. One came when the intended target got a hand on the ball and deflected it to a defender, and the other occurred when the intended receiver fell down while running his route.
Dantonio didn’t sound as if he expected a repeat of that Saturday afternoon.
“McSorley is an excellent player,” MIchigan State’s coach added. “He buys time. He’s going to scramble. He’s going to launch it. They are going to throw the ball down the field. Their average attempt is 13.8 yards down the field. That’s their average attempt.”
Dantonio also mentioned the Nittany Lions at two other points during his press conference, including:
- On the atmosphere at Beaver Stadium and his team’s mindset: “We’ve had very competitive games here with them over the course of time, and it should be another great one. Great atmosphere there. Another Big Ten game, Big Ten East Division game, so it’s obviously big. As far as where we’re at right now, from our perspective and I’m sure all of your perspective, I feel like we should be 5-0. My message to our players is to play like that. Play like we’re 5-0.”
- On being underdogs — phrased, “nobody thinks you’re going to win” — and whether there’s a galvanizing effect going on the road like that: “I think there is. I think you’ve got to play away games in this conference and you’ve got to look forward to playing away. That’s a great atmosphere over there. We’ve gone over there and we’ve won before. It’s fun. ... I think when you go away and play in a different environment, I think it takes on a different mentality for your football team. It’s a little bit us-against-the-world type mentality. It will serve us well.”